In 2002, the federal government passed sweeping election reform designed to enhance the voting process throughout the country. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires all states to meet minimum standards for voting systems and for the administration of the electoral process, from voter registration to the casting of the ballot.
As a consequence of the implementation of the HAVA requirements, New York State has replaced the lever machines that had been used in prior years with a new machine. The following is a brief overview of the new machine and voting process to smooth the transition of this change.
Queens County has selected the DS200 ballot scanner to read and tabulate your paper ballots. The DS200 Ballot Scanner system is a portable electronic voting system that uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally the results. This system allows for paper ballots to be immediately tabulated at your polling site. The DS200 also notifies you of any voting errors. You will be able to immediately correct these errors to ensure that Your Vote Counts!
Using the paper ballot
Here is the general process used for completing your paper ballot before scanning it. After checking in at your polling site, an inspector will provide you with a paper ballot and a privacy sleeve. The privacy sleeve is used to shield your completed ballot from view. You will also receive a special marking pen to use to complete your ballot. Make sure you only use this pen when completing your ballot. The ballot scanner may not correctly register your vote choices made with any other pen. You will be directed to a booth or area where you can complete your ballot in privacy. If you haven’t voted before with the paper ballot, make sure to ask the inspector for a demonstration. BOE inspectors are trained to show you how to fill in the ballot and process it on the scanner and are always happy to help. The paper ballot has voting instructions, office titles, candidates, and/or issues for this election printed on both sides. Make sure to mark every contest by completely filling in the oval to the upper right to the name of the candidate or issue of your choice. Do not use an “x” or other notation. The marking pen is not erasable, so do not try to erase or cross out a choice after it has been made. Do not make stray marks on the ballot. You should also avoid rolling or folding the ballot. If you make a mistake, or damage the ballot, return it to the inspector for a replacement. Be aware that a limited amount of replacement ballots are allowed. You can also include write in candidates. Fill in the oval next to the words write in and write the candidate’s name on the line. After voting, insert the ballot into the privacy sleeve. The inspector will direct you to the DS200 Scanner.
Once your ballot is completed, it is time to scan it. Scanning your ballot in the DS200 ballot scanner is easy, but remember, if you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask your inspector. Many elections provide on screen messages in multiple languages. In this case, select the language of your choice by touching the corresponding button on the display screen. The ballot may be inserted into the ballot slot in any orientation. If you have any questions regarding your ballot, please ask your inspector BEFORE inserting your ballot into the DS200. After inserting your ballot, check the display screen to see if there are any error messages. If the ballot message is “blank ballot” or “over-voted ballot,” press “don’t cast, return” on the touch screen to get the ballot back to make changes. If you’d like to submit your ballot as is, press the “cast ballot” button. If the ballot is damaged and not accepted by the scanner, return it to the inspector for a replacement. To complete the process and cast your ballot, press the “cast ballot” button. The display screen notifies you when your ballot has been cast successfully. Your ballot is stored in a secured ballot box.
If you have any questions about this new process, please feel free to contact the Board of Elections at 718-730-6730 or 866-VOTE-NYC.
Railroads Clean up Their Act
The problems associated with trains hauling waste through our neighborhoods have dramatically increased in recent years. Many of our neighbors are woken up by clamoring trains and offensive odors, yet consistently get stonewalled when they try to work with these railroad companies to alleviate these conditions. In response to requests from Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) members, my staff and I began to take a closer look at this problem earlier this year.
The issue of waste trains is not a new problem, and is certainly not new to our area. But recent actions of the railroads have become more and more offensive to the surrounding communities. It seems that more trains are running through our area on earlier and earlier schedules with garbage left a few feet away from residents’ backyards for days. The disruption to this community is unacceptable, and I have partnered with Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Mike Miller, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley to tackle this issue.
Perhaps the biggest threat to residents’ quality of life is the sickening odors emitted from the waste cars. With waste either completely or partially uncovered and often leaking or spilling onto the tracks, the constant smell is intolerable. I introduced Assembly bill A.10176 to specifically address this concern. A.10176 amends the environmental conservation law to ensure that waste that is transferred by rail in New York State is properly contained, consistent with Federal Railroad Administration regulations, to prevent leakage and spillage along the tracks.
As the trucking of garbage continues to be phased out and replaced by waste transport via rail, there is a crucial need to protect the residential communities adjacent to the tracks. Lax compliance and enforcement of existing regulations poses not only a health concern for residents, but has larger negative environmental consequences as well. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has the ability to regulate waste transfer stations in the state of New York. Requiring waste cars to be covered before exiting the transfer station will help alleviate odors and leakage as the trains continue to their destination. My bill requires that rail cars hauling putrescible waste be sealed with hard lids, and that rail cars hauling non-putrescible waste be covered with hard tarping before exiting a waste transfer station.
Assembly bill A.10819 will also address concerns associated with open containers, leaking of garbage, and the fumes emitted from these cars by amending the public authorities law. The bill will require specific environmental standards in contracts or lease agreements involving the MTA when they lease their rail lines for the purposes of hauling freight, specifically for the containment of putrescible and non-putrescible waste.
The passage of these two bills will protect the surrounding communities and the environment while having a minimal impact on the railroad. However, given the rail companies’ past refusal to work with communities to address these problems, I introduced two other bills designed to financially penalize companies that fail to follow the law.
The first, A.10396 increases financial penalties for subsequent violations of the environmental conservation law relating to waste transporter permits and solid waste management and resource recovery facilities. Currently, the civil penalties associated with the violation of the law is only $7,500 for the first day of a violation and $1,500 for each day the violation continues. This is the maximum that can be imposed for subsequent violations, whether there is a single repeat violation or if there are twenty repeat violations. These relatively low penalties, even for repeat violations of the environmental conservation law, do not create an effective deterrent for the rail companies. My legislation enhances these penalties for second and third violations, creating a much stronger incentive for the rail companies to follow the law.
Assembly bill A.10820 also imposes financial penalties for inappropriate coverings and/or accidents on the track. A.10820 amends the environmental conservation law to require a transporter of putrescible or non-putrescible waste that is responsible for a waste spill to reimburse the municipality for costs associated with any emergency response. There have been multiple incidents in which waste haulers spilled waste, resulting in evacuation of neighboring residential areas due to the presence or threat of fire from these spills. This is an unfair burden on the taxpayers, caused by emergencies that could have been avoided by proper transportation of the waste. My legislation puts the burden on the waste haulers, rather than the municipality, for the costs associated with the emergency response.
These four pieces of legislation are the first of many steps my colleagues and I plan to take to work toward solving the myriad issues associated with waste shipment in our area. This is going to be a long, hard fight and my colleagues and I have resolved to be relentless. I look forward to continuing to work with members of the community toward achieving our shared goals.
In the coming months, I will work on these pieces of legislation, research unexplored avenues to draft new bills, investigate why the MTA has not been enforcing the fine schedule spelled out in their current agreement with NY and Atlantic Railroad, and closely examine the City of New York’s waste management plan.
These FREE cards assist seniors and medical personnel in the event of an accident or emergency. Basic information includes name, address, and phone number of emergency contact person, blood type, and list of medical conditions and current medical conditions.
STOP Graffiti Program 718-263-5687
Residents of our community are encouraged to call our graffiti hotline so my office can coordinate free clean up of that site. Before the site is cleaned, each location will be photographed by my staff to assist in the prosecution of the vandals by the Queens County District Attorney’s office and local precincts. This is already a successful program, and I urge all my fellow residents to use this vital service as we all do our part to beautify our community.
Helped a local parent get their child’s Medicaid benefits restored so that the child could continue receiving home health care.
Assisted seniors submit applications for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE).
Won funds for tenants of a large rent-regulated building who had been over-charged for Major Capital Improvements (MCI).
Worked to reinstate the unemployment benefits and win retroactive pay for a local resident after they were wrongly terminated by the Department of Labor.
Resolved a dispute between a consumer and a prescription drug company that wrongly billed the consumer for drugs and medical supplies they neither ordered nor needed.
Legislative E-mail Program
In addition to my office’s existing programs, I ask you to take advantage of our Legislative E-mail program - the easiest way to interact with myself and my staff regarding policy in New York State. Thousands of our community’s residents receive these e-mails, request additional bill information and register their support or opposition to legislation. Simply put, my Legislative E-mail Program allows me to gain your insight and valuable input on pending legislation. If you would like to participate, please contact my office at: email@example.com.
Assembly bill A.9447-A
Passed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, this bill makes the possession of four or more stolen bicycles a class E felony, which increases penalties and eases the burden for prosecutors who handle these cases. This bill will serve as a deterrent and a just punishment for criminals who currently operate with little regard for the consequence of committing this crime in our communities.
Assembly bill A.9407-A
Passed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, this bill requires all retailers selling bicycles to post a notice informing consumers about the National Bicycle Registry and locally affiliated registries, the purpose of bicycle registration, and information from the Consumer Protection Board’s theft prevention educational campaign and the Consumer Protection Board contact information.
The New York City Department of Planning estimates that over 70,000 bicycles are stolen in the five boroughs every year, which breaks down to the theft of approximately 191 bicycles each day in the City of New York. There are also reports of increased bicycle theft throughout the state, including multiple cases where bikes have been stolen and disassembled for parts similar to chop shops that traffic in stolen car parts.
Under current law, possession of multiple stolen bicycles can only be charged as a misdemeanor, unless the aggregate value of the recovered property is more than $1000, and the stolen bikes were taken from a single owner. This outdated law places an onerous burden on prosecutors and fails to effectively punish individuals that repeatedly steal multiple bicycles and perpetuate the illegal resale market.
Bike registries, including the National Bicycle Registry, are designed to assist law enforcement in their efforts to recover and return stolen bicycles to their owners. Registered bikes are also used by prosecutors as proof of stolen property in theft cases. While these programs are effective, only a small number of bicycle owners are aware of these registries.